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New arts graduate course to build knowledge mobilization skills

November 22, 2006

Source: University of Waterloo

An innovative seminar at the University of Waterloo will encourage the next generation of scholars to share the "fruits" of their research with the public to benefit society.

UW's faculty of arts will launch a new interdisciplinary graduate student seminar called Knowledge Mobilization to Serve Society. Knowledge mobilization -- which involves sharing university research findings with the wider community in order to influence policy, practice and everyday life -- has become an increasingly important part of scholarship.

The new course, to be offered during the next winter term, will equip students with the background and tools needed for such socially responsive knowledge transfer. UW's strategic research plan says that academic excellence includes "service to society through the transfer of knowledge."

"Researchers in the arts disciplines produce work of incalculable value to society at large," said Ken Coates, dean of arts at UW. "We have, however, often fallen into the practice of leaving the work of mobilization of our ideas to others and have largely kept our research and insights to ourselves."

Coates said the course is part of a broader initiative to take greater responsibility for "moving the fruits of our research out of the academy and to engage more directly with those seeking to create societal change."

The for-credit course will be led by psychology professor Kathleen Bloom, who also directs the Canadian Centre for Knowledge Mobilization as well as an alliance for child literacy called Research Works!

"Effective mobilization of knowledge is a two-way process," Bloom said. "It's built on partnerships between those who produce new knowledge and those who can use it. This is how decisions about social issues extend beyond opinions and beliefs. This is how researchers make their knowledge count."

The course is one of UW's responses to a recent call by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for more effective and extensive mobilization of university knowledge.

In its recent strategic plan, the federal funding agency underscores the importance of humanities and social sciences research to Canadians.

"Humanities and social sciences ideas can have enormous impact on society," the plan says. "There are the paradigm-shifting ideas of great philosophers, historians, economists and psychologists and there is the practical knowledge coming from research that helps us understand and address immediate issues such as third-world poverty, security and human rights, education and health-care delivery."

To serve society, scholarly products must be collated, put in context, translated into plain language and transported beyond the walls of academia, Bloom said. And to enable the productive identification of research questions, academics need to form partnerships with non-academic groups and learn how to work collaboratively with them.

Bloom will augment her own extensive knowledge and experience by inviting policy-makers, practitioners, journalists and SSHRC representatives to give public guest lectures on topics related to knowledge mobilization.

The seminar will include discussion of conceptual issues as well as hands-on learning from the perspective of the students' own research interests. They will be given opportunities to work together in teams and to meet with community stakeholders both face-to-face and online.

The Wednesday evening seminar will be open to graduate students at both UW and Wilfrid Laurier University. Enrolment is limited, so pre-register now by contacting Bloom at kbloom at Registration will be processed by a students's department.



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